Ash Fork Madness - Three Oranges & the Nice Apple
Three Oranges and The Nice Apple*
It was mid afternoon when G.B. swerved into the gas station and called to me, “Charle I got a surprise fer ye. Close up fer a while, I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin’.” While he pulled down the lube room door he asked me, “Guess who’s out at the Santa Cruz quarry?”
“My family?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” he growled. “It’s that crazy ol’ quarry guard. The one who wrote the signs at y’all’s butte an’ gave y’all an’ y’all’s mother the drink of water. I’ve moved ‘im into Santa Cruz quarry. We’ve been havin’ a lot a’ trouble out thar — people stealin’ thangs.”
G.B. was speaking of the quarry guard who wrote the Christmas poem I found, La Patrona*, the story of La Patrona’s gift to the shepherd – three oranges and the nice apple.
“When we get thar stay upwind a’ him Charle. His clothes are black an’ greazy, so danged full a dirt, stone, dust and sweat sealed in with soot. They don’t thin out or wear out –—they break and pieces fall out!”
As we drove onto the quarry floor I saw a cobalt blue hulk of an old school bus planted by the canyon rim. The wheels had been removed and the bus was settled amidst the stone rubble and cactus. G.B. got out of the pick-up, and with me in tow, headed for the old bus. He pulled open the door and a heavy stench, which had been held captive inside, rushed out
accompanied by the old quarry guard’s three, dark lavender hued dogs who attacked their master’s benefactor. Ignoring the snapping of teeth, G.B, pushed inside, with me clinging to his shirt and desperately hoping to escape the dogs wrath.
Everything inside the old school bus was permeated or coated by soot from a cobbled old coal and wood stove. In a mound of filthy bedding two eyes opened, their sparkle the only brightness visible as they shone in a soot blackened face. The dogs rushed past us, leapt onto the bedding and proceeded to growl in defense of their beloved master.
The bedding and the dogs were tossed aside and the old quarry guard appeared. He was fully dressed in the same clothes he had donned the previous spring — when he last conducted his annual ablutions and laundry at the local campground. His stringy, shoulder length hair and grizzled beard were stained by soot and smoke and matched the color of the dogs. Hidden in all the dirt was a handsome old man, but a long time lost was the young poet, the soldier, the lover, the teacher, the cowboy and the shepherd. He was well suited living alone guarding the quarry, for as G.B. often said, “He likes his dawgs better’n people, an’ he’d as soon shoot y’all as bother mess with ye.”
“Hello G.B.. Hello Ma’am.”
The old man spoke with the cultured tone of a gentleman. But like so many solitary souls when they encounter another human being, instead of listening, they totally monopolize the conversation then return to their solitude with only their own words to feed their thoughts.
Most of the old man’s monologue related to Hondo, Sister and Carlompio, his three lavender hued dogs.
The quarry guard and his dissertation followed us out of the school bus and back toward the company pick-up. When G.B. had heard all he could endure he interrupted the old man and issued his orders for the day. The guard replied with mild sarcasm, “Si Patrón.” Which escaped G.B.’s notice.
We walked back to the pick-up and climbed in as the guard continued his spiel. The pick-up began to roll so the old man doffed his soot stained cap and bowed deeply.
“Adiós Patrona.” I heard him call out. And I wondered whether that too was sarcasm or whether he envisioned me as his La Patrona.
While we bounced down the quarry road toward town G.B. said, “Come summer, y’all might like to paint him an’ his dawgs. An’ if y’all want, y’all can buy some Christmas cheer fer the crazy ol’ man.”
“How can he afford to feed all those dogs when he’s so poor?” I asked.
“Hayll Charle, he ain’t poor. He’s got it hid! Fact is most folks thank his money’s buried out thar somewhere.” he said, gesturing with a sweeping wave of his arm toward the mountains beyond the canyon.
The quarry guard’s life-style was his choice as money was always available for anything he considered necessary. However, totally caught up in the poem’s portrayal of the benevolent Patrona and the destitute shepherd, I put together a platter of Christmas dinner, mince tarts, a box of chocolates and three pounds of diced fried liver for the dogs. Unable to resist the magic of the poem I added three Christmas oranges and a nice apple.
*the copywrite for “La Patrona is held by the quarry guard.
Posted by Charlotte Madison at 10:08
Add your own comments.|
|For over forty years, painting related totally to the American Southwest. It was people of the dry hot desert, solid mesas, cacti, stone and canyons that made my heart leap.
When I realized I would never see the desert again, I began a search for something to paint. Nana suggested, B.C, vineyards and took me to Penticton where I did one painting. Nana and Gary then began to take me on Mystery tours of the island and always included a vineyard. But they all were so green! So many leaves so many trees - I don't do trees and I rarely use green - dont really like looking at green, but I got started on a duty series not an inspired series.
I guess it was July or early August when we were driving home from a winery visit. I was grousing about painting the Festive Flying Grape series
when Gary said "Start another series, you can work on more than one at a time."
For some reason those words triggered the words "I could paint the Island artists!" Nana and Gary agreed and it was the topic of conversation all the way home
For a while I was afraid I wouldn't get volunteers to pose but it is rolling and each one offers something special to inspire me. And it is lovely to feel all I am doing was sparked by Gary and like all I do, supported by Nana.
April Update 2012
Sixteen fine artists, many of national repute, have posed for Artists of Vancouver Island and many are booked or promised. There will be no poses after June 30,2012. When I have painted all twenty-five I will turn my thought to . . . what next?